Coming home for winter break after being away for college can be unexpectedly disorienting.
This was especially the case for me, having chosen a school more than a thousand miles away from Minneapolis in Portland, Oregon. Even though I’m close to and on good terms with my family, suddenly being surrounded by them after months of figuring out how to live on my own was more of a challenge than I expected. I immediately missed the personal freedoms college offers; being able to go anywhere without having to tell anyone, the privacy of making my own decisions, and the spontaneous socializing opportunities I had gotten used to at Reed.
After the ridiculously busy last few weeks of the semester, I was looking forward to spending time with my family and having nothing to do for several days. But once I had finally turned in my last final exam, packed up my warm clothes and gotten off the plane into the chilly Minneapolis air, I mostly felt lost and confused.
I have two homes now: the familiar Minneapolis I grew up in and Portland, whose streets are full of memories and new friends and freedom to explore all kinds of new challenges. After weeks of going full throttle, always having some kind of assignment to work on or outing to participate in, being home almost felt stifling.
With free time to spare, I suddenly didn’t know what to do with myself.
Eventually the feeling subsided. I found projects to work on, spent the holidays with family and friends from high school, and came to feel much better about being home. But I know that initial shock of returning will only get stronger the more time I spend away. My new life at college that I worried so much about the summer after high school has become my normal life, and I can’t help but be a little sad that I don’t feel as at home here in Minneapolis as I used to.
Curious, I asked my friends who go to different colleges how they felt about coming home. Everyone had their version of similar feelings, which boiled down to wanting to stay connected to their childhood home and family but also not wanting to spend too much time there. My parents also noticed that I was talking much more about Portland this year, and that I seemed bored at home. My dad said he understood, but was clearly sad. “I’m not as important in your life anymore,” he lamented. “But make sure to keep visiting. We miss you over here.”
After some reflection, I’ve decided I probably won’t stay home during all of winter break next year. But I would at least like to visit for the holidays, when everyone else comes together. Even though I feel increasingly separate from them, there are still many unique things I love about my family and Minneapolis.
I know it’s important to spend time here, at least for short visits, and stay connected.